Return as you received: Stores don't want damaged goods so if you think you may be returning an item, don't take it for a trial run before deciding. Especially with clothes, it is very easy to tell if an item has been worn so the best approach to an unwanted holiday gift is to keep it as close to the original packaging as possible.
Return at a quiet time: With so many holiday shoppers returning gifts, the best approach is to go at a time when the store will not be as busy. Not only will this give you a chance to pick out a different more desirable present, but it will also ensure that you aren't dealing with an overwhelmed employee.
Check return policies: Some of the approaches that stores are using to tighten return policies include requiring receipts, creating small return time frames, and only giving the current price of a product when it is returned. Although there is little you can do about some of these rules, calling ahead to check on a return policy and asking for items from stores you know have a liberal policy are good practices. With the increase in online shopping, many retailers include a return label that can be placed on the original box so make sure that you do not throw away any packaging until you are sure that you want to keep it.
The season of giving is also the season of returning. This is a good philosophy to keep in mind when you are giving gifts as well. Think of a receipt as a contract -- you should read the terms of the item and gift return policy before signing it with a swipe of your credit card. Happy Holidays everyone!